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Lyr Add: Siege of Plattsburg (War of 1812)

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Charley Noble 08 Nov 09 - 04:13 PM
HuwG 08 Nov 09 - 05:29 PM
Dave Ruch 08 Nov 09 - 05:57 PM
Charley Noble 08 Nov 09 - 06:49 PM
Charley Noble 08 Nov 09 - 07:04 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 08 Nov 09 - 08:00 PM
Charley Noble 08 Nov 09 - 08:41 PM
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Subject: Lyr Add: Siege of Plattsburg (War of 1812)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 08 Nov 09 - 04:13 PM

Here's a song from the War of 1812 that I've never run across before, composed shortly after the Battle of Lake Champlain from the point of view of a Black sailor aboard the American fleet:
^^
By Micajah Hawkins, 1814

Siege of Plattsburg (Battle of Lake Champlain)

Backside Albany stan' Lake Champlain,
Little pond half full o' water;
Plat-te-burg dar too, close 'pon de main;
Town small–he grow bigger, do', herearter.

On Lake Champlain Uncle Sam set he boat,
An' Massa Macdonough he sail 'em;
When Gineral Macomb make Plat-te-burg he home
Wid de army, whose courage nebber fail 'em.

On 'lebenth day Sep-tem-ber,
In eighteen hun'red and fourteen,
Gubbernor Probose and he British soj-er
Come to Plat-te-burg a tea-party courtin';

And he boat come too, arter Uncle Sam boat.
Massa 'Donough, he look sharp out de winder;
Den Gineral Macomb (ah! he always a-home)
Cotch fire too, sirs, like a tinder.

Bang! bang! bang! den de cannons 'gin to roar,
In Plat-te-burg and all 'bout that quarter;
Gubbernor Probose try he han' 'pon de shore,
While he boat take he luck 'pon de water;

But Massa Macdonough knock he boat in the head,
Break he heart, break he shin, 'tove he caff in,
An' Gineral Macomb start ole Probose home–
To't me soul den I muss die a laffin'.

Probose scare so he lef' all behine,
Powder, ball, cannon, tea-pot, an' kittle;
Some say he cotch a cole–trouble in he mine
'cause he eat so much raw an' cole vittle.

Uncle Sam berry sorry, to be sure, for the pain,
Wish he nuss heself up well an' hearthy,
For Gineral Macomb and Massa 'Donough home
When he notion of anudder tea-party!


Notes: click here for website source

From Songs and Poems from War of 1812

"The British naval defeat and the subsequent retreat of Sir George Prevost's army were the subject of one of the most popular American songs written and sung during the War of 1812. It was written by Micajah Hawkins, the proprietor of a theatre in Albany, and sung by him in the character of a Black sailor."

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Siege of Plattsburg (War of 1812)
From: HuwG
Date: 08 Nov 09 - 05:29 PM

Heavily disputed article, but gives some detail and background:

Wikipedia article on the Battle of Plattsburgh


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Siege of Plattsburg (War of 1812)
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 08 Nov 09 - 05:57 PM

Charley,

Thanks for posting this, and the other War of 1812 song earlier today.

The composer here is undoubtedly Micah Hawkins (Micah Hawkins at Wikipedia), who was an uncle of the great 19th-century Long Island painter and fiddle tune collector William Sidney Mount (but that's another story).

I'm no scholar of minstrel show or blackface musical traditions (though I'm interested), but it strikes me funny that a "blackface song" or a song to be sung "in the character of a Negro sailor" would have been composed in 1815. Isn't that a good 15-20 years before the beginnings of blackface song and the first seeds of the minstrel shows?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Siege of Plattsburg (War of 1812)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 08 Nov 09 - 06:49 PM

Dave-

Good point with regard to when "minstrel singing" was officially recognized, generally in the late 1830's. But it's my understanding that "blackface song" proceeded minstrel singing by decades.

I may have read too much into the notes from the website where I harvested this song; it could have been composed long after the battle in 1814, coincident with an anniversary celebration.

Maybe someone here can find the sheet music on-line, or query the website linked for a definite date.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Siege of Plattsburg (War of 1812)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 08 Nov 09 - 07:04 PM

Huw-

Thanks for the link describing the details on the battle on land and in the lake. It certainly was a desperate battle by the war ships and if the British had won than there is no doubt in my mind that the American troops defending Plattsburg would have been overwhelmed.

It was a key defeat of the British.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Siege of Plattsburg (War of 1812)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 08 Nov 09 - 08:00 PM

Little or no documentation for the poems.

A book of songs of this kind is "American War Ballads and Lyrics," edited by G. C. Eggleston, Granger Book Co. No documentation, several that I checked on are not of the period.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Siege of Plattsburg (War of 1812)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 08 Nov 09 - 08:41 PM

With regard to Micah Hawkins, the Wikipedia link has this statement reinforcing my assumption that the song was composed soon after the event:

"His blackface song "Backside Albany", ridiculing the British during the War of 1812 was to be sung "in the character of a Negro sailor". ridiculing the British efforts. It was first performed in Albany, New York, February 15, 1815, as part of a play, The Battle of Plattsburgh."

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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